North American trade deal set for signing as tariff fight remains
The U.S., Canada and Mexico are set to sign their new trade deal Friday following a year of intense negotiations to revamp the continent’s free trade zone – and after President Donald Trump’s threats to kill it.
The countries are expected to ink the U.S.Mexico-Canada Agreement in Buenos Aires at the start of the Group of 20 summit, three officials familiar with the plans said, speaking on condition of anonymity. It’s unclear, though, if the heads of state will sign the document or cabinet-level officials, and Canadian officials said those arrangements are still being finalized.
Putting pen to paper would bring some certainty at a time of unease over global trade tensions, and be held up as an example of Trump-era deals as he prepares to meet China’s Xi Jinping at the G-20. The world’s two biggest economies are embroiled in an escalating trade war.
Several hurdles remain. The agreement needs ratification to take effect, almost certainly by the next U.S. Congress. Some parts will kick in immediately, such as a deal exempting Canada and Mexico from U.S. auto tariffs. The fine print is still being tweaked, and Canada and Mexico remain at odds with the U.S. over tariffs on steel and aluminum.
The pact would update a 1994 deal between the countries, which trade more than $1 trillion annually.
“As is always the case with these agreements, there are always details to be finalized and we are very hard at work doing that,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Thursday in Buenos Aires. “We’re just being sure that all the Is are dotted, all the Ts are crossed.”
Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are all at the G-20, though none have publicly confirmed they’ll be the ones to sign. The nations had been rushing to have the pact inked by Friday Pena Nieto’s last day in office. It’s possible ministers could sign, one person said.
Canada struck a deal with the U.S. on Sept. 30 to avoid the U.S. and Mexico proceeding without it. It overhauls rules affecting wide swaths of the economy – requiring more highwage content in auto manufacturing, opening Canada’s protected dairy market and allowing more duty-free shipments into Canada and Mexico.
Lawyers for the countries are still finalizing and translating the text of the agreement, a process known as a legal scrub.